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Diablo III's launch failures and other truths
by Andrew Whipple III

For millions of gamers out there, May 15th was the day that just wouldn't come. It was the day that expectant players would experience euphoria in digital form. Eager to fulfill their own personal piece of video game history, this was every gamers' personal Kessel Run.

This was the day that the fabled Diablo III, being 12 years in the making, would finally surface and hit the world in one sweeping wave of loot-driven madness. Well it's here and the game is fantastic, but as celestial as D3 might seem, the launch of Blizzard's epic was everything but. History often repeats itself and we'd do well to remember important moments like this.

Botched video game launches aren't anything new. If you've played some type of MMO in the last decade, you more than likely experienced server downtimes, instability and other atrocities that made you question your endurance and the very reason you bought the title. D3 isn't an MMO, but with the technology of today it shares in the online DRM, which requires a persistent internet connection in order to play the game. Again, this isn't anything new but it's one of the reasons why D3's launch was less than acceptable.

So, yeah. There's stairs, man.

A vast majority of gamers out there disagree with certain game requirements, such as ones that demand a permanent internet connection in order to play them. Quite frankly, I can't blame them, but this issue has been circulating for some time now. The fact is, the internet is omnipresent and if you're a contemporary PC gamer who doesn't have it, well, you're in the lesser, lesser minority here; one reserved for pine cones and rabid badgers. Though this was core in the reason why D3's launch was so rough, I'm a firm believer that Blizzard could have done far more to prevent this disaster from materializing.

The inability to login, unrecorded achievements, random crashes and errors, severe server-side lag, D3 was a literal nightmare for millions of gamers. According to Blizzard, they weren't expecting numbers of this magnitude and, obviously, ran into severe technical issues. My issue with this is, well... it's D3. As stated above, this game has been in the works for 12 or more years, is a sequel to one of the most loved games on the PC, was anticipated beyond measure and is a legend in its own right. Blizzard is a well-off company and though pre-order numbers can be a spotty projection for incoming numbers, they should have been ready to take on as many players as necessary, regardless of cost.

Hey, kid! Your clone looks stupid.

Playing contrarian though, what do you expect when millions upon millions storm onto your doorstep? It can't be easy allowing that many people access to the game at the same time, and it probably would have taken a decent amount of extra equipment to compensate for the numbers they were missing. Just think, after the initial few weeks of the game's release, the people playing D3 will significantly taper off rendering all the equipment Blizzard set up useless. Not to mention, despite all their shortcomings, Blizzard manned up and publicly apologized for the launch day issues. That's a respectable move if there ever was one.

I certainly can't take away the sense of honor Blizzard has when they're at fault and, as a player, I appreciate the apology. However, what happened can't be erased. Launch day is the single most important day for a video game and what happens during that time can make or break a title. This, though, is where Blizzard has a certain immunity. Since they're such a renowned and loved company, their games being brought into space and such, issues that would normally be catastrophic to any other game are instead instantly forgiven. This is something I can't get behind.

You can argue that any other title, especially one from a studio who has yet to release a game, would garner significantly fewer numbers upon release day. While that's true, let's just say that hypothetically there's this title out there from an up and coming studio that looks absolutely awesome. Every video they release siphons the very life essence of your soul and draws even more of your time as you try and pry every juicy piece of information you can from the official forums. Launch day comes and these people who have been waiting for this moment are blocked from even seeing the opening cinematic. What do you think would happen?

The environments certainly look nice, you know, before the demons come in and such.

Besides the requisite rage on the forums, being a "lesser" game, the people who bought the title would immediately demand their money back and rate the game poorly. Those reading about it would also most likely scrap their urges to pick it up. Some might stick around for the fixes to come in, but the already disheartened, gossamer-esque fan base would be looking for the next, working game to get excited about. There, within a single day, a brand new game's reputation is tarnished for eternity, but Blizzard's title is given amnesty? There's something not right about that.

Smaller studios simply can't afford to make mistakes like this for risk of literally losing everything and that's something we need to remember. Blizzard makes great games, of that there is no doubt and D3 is one hell of a game. However, even the giants of the gaming industry make mistakes and it's up to us, the guys and girls who play their games, to give them reason to continue pressing forward. There's been far worse out there concerning botched game launches, but none of them, none compare to the anticipation D3 had. We can't forget that.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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